I went on espn.com today, and what did I see?
Every single AFC East article talks about how the Patriots dynasty is over, and how they are not the beast of the east as they were earlier in the decade.
Is this talk really going on?
Just two years ago the Pats completed the second perfect regular season in NFL history, and came up just one game short of perfection in the Super Bowl. Last year, a back-up quarterback, who hadn't played since high school, steered this team to an 11-5 record, coming up just short of the playoffs because of a tie breaker.
The Pats sit with a 7-5 record right now with a one-game lead in the division over both the Dolphins and the Jets. That doesn't really sound like a team in decline even with the Patriots' recent records in past seasons. Most other teams would be glad to be leading their divisions with just four games to go.
Why do people think the sky is falling?
1. The Defense Can't Seem to Stop Anyone
Yes, it's true the defense hasn't been as good as it has in the past. Looking back at the super bowl runs, the defenses were the real catalysts for the team. Opposing teams were left trying to figure out how to score on this defense—with the likes of Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison, and Tedy Bruschi—weeks in advance. Now, it seems as though anybody can score at will against this defense.
Well, this is a rebuilding year for the Pats' defense. It lost veterans Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi. The team also traded away Mike Vrabel to the Kansas City Chiefs, leaving the defense as the youngest Bill Belichick has coached since his arrival in 2000.
This has given other players the chance to show they have what it takes to play at this level—especially Jerod Mayo, Brandon Mcowgan, and Brandon Meriweather. With younger guys getting more playing time, it means more experience for them, and that they will be ready for the future.
2. The Offense Can't Score in the Second Half
The Pats offense has been great in the first half, but as soon as the second half starts they struggle mightily.
In their five losses this year, New England has been outscored in the second half by a 73-24 margin. In years past, the Patriots were known to be the best 60-minute team in the NFL, and were able to throw the final blow for a win. This year, just hasn't been like the past.
Nobody expected this offense to be back to it's 2007 form. Tom Brady was coming off a knee injury, and hadn't played since Week One of the 2008 season. Even after waiting so long before playing again, Brady has been darn good. The offense just hasn't clicked in the second half, but there are still four games to go in the regular season. That's more than enough time to get going just in time for the playoffs.
There are a couple of more things that make people think this team is done, but these two are the most important in my mind. Most Pats fans will say this team is not done by a long shot, which it isn't.
Could that possibly be a good omen? I seem to remember a time when they finished 11-5 in 2001 and for some reason I remember that season ending in a great way.
Just something to think about.